BSC – Graduated Peradeniya University, Formerly Senior Commercial Manager at Sri Lankan Airlines and Formerly Senior Consultant to Air India GSA in Sri Lanka
Wisdom has three levels, wisdom from hearing or from that which is read, wisdom contemplation of what was read or heard, both of which are derived from the knowledge of others. When one listens to Dhamma expounded by the Buddha or read Sutta and or other segments, one gains the first level of wisdom. When that person/s contemplate on that which was heard or read, the person/s will gain the second level of wisdom, the wisdom from contemplation. But both these wisdoms are derived from the knowledge of the Enlightened One. The highest level of wisdom which is experiential wisdom is of that person’s and comes from Meditation.
Buddha the Enlightened One gave us that sublime and super-mundane path in many a Sutta, and here I will dwell into the Maha Sathipattana Sutta in the Digha Nikaya. Buddha was staying in the Kuru Country in a town called Kammasadhamma. There Buddha addressed the Bhikkhus, “Bhikkhus this is the direct path for the purification beings, to overcome grief and lamentation, for the elimination of suffering and unhappiness, for the attainment of right method, realization of Nirvana. What are these four? Here Bhikku is seeing the body as body is, seeing the feeling as feeling is, seeing the mind as mind is and seeing things as things are, ardent, knowing, mindful and putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. (the world of six touch-agencies)
Kayanupassana – Anapana Sathi
Here a Bhikkhu having gone to a forest, or to the base of a tree, or to an empty hut, sits down folding the legs crosswise, holding the body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore (in front of the face just about tip of nostrils or the upper lip where the motion of air will be felt). Always mindful, the Bhikkhu breathes in and breathes out, breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ It is here in most meditation retreats as I understand now with my own meditation experience that there is a flaw. Breath sensitive to the entire body (Sabba Kaya Patisanvedi) is explained as the beginning, middle and end of either in breath or out breath. But that cannot be as breath in and out is Kaya Sankharo (as told by Arahath Bhikkuni Dhammadinna Therani to count Visaka in Chula Vedalla Sutta). There is a Sutta named Sabba Sutta (Samyuththa Nikaya, Salayathana Vagga) and here Enlightened One tell Bhikkus, “Bhikkhus I tell you all, listen and pay attention, here I speak. “As you say, Venerable Sir,” the Bhikkhus responded. The Blessed One said, “What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, ‘Repudiating this All, I will describe another,’ if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range.”
Thus as told by Buddha, Sabba Kaya means body & tactile sensations. In the long and short breaths, you only observe as those are conventions. But in the next step of whole body the yogi begins to train. As the yogi trains on the whole body the yogi begins to feel happy feelings, unhappy feelings and equanimous feelings in the body at one and the same time in different parts of the body. At times there could be unhappy feelings as though a red hot iron rod is being used to pierce the body, then elsewhere happy feelings and still in other areas equanimous feelings simultaneously. This is the beginning of the realizing experiential wisdom and thus yogi will continue training. In my experience, as I understand the yogi has moved from Mindfulness to Vipassana. Vipassana is penetrating the conventional or the apparent truth and see it all as are” and thus the yogi is now in training on the reality and not merely observing a convention. The yogi now breathes in calming the bodily formation of breath and breathe out calming the bodily formation of breath. Then the yogi moves on to seeing this body as body is, and will realize that it is not just one but a whole collection, with the experience obtained from feeling the happy, unhappy and equanimous feelings often at one and the same moment. Then yogi will discern the other bodies too as collection and not just as one and then will discern both this body and other bodies as collections and not just one each.
The sensations will prevail in the body and yogi will discern them arising, ceasing and arising & ceasing with great rapidity. Now he or she will discern the arising feelings in this body, ceasing feelings in the body and arising and ceasing of feelings in the body. This is when the meditative yogi begins to get rid of the first of the ten fetters, Sath Kaya Ditti (sometimes known as Sakkaya Ditti) that this body is true and is one. Together with Sath Kaya Ditti the yogi will also get rid of Vichikichcha or doubt about the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, was there before, will be there after, was there and will be there, training and co-dependent arising and becomes a Stream Enterer or Sothapanna person. In my understanding this is why Buddha the Enlightened One in this discourse initially taught about knowing the body as body is. Anupubba Sikka, Anupubba Kiriya, Anupubba Patipada. Regular in training, regularly in activity and regularly in the right way successively.
Body and the Tactile sensations
As told by Buddha in the Sabba Sutta, Sabba Kaya is body & tactile sensations. The tactile sensations are not that of external touch but internal. In this inglorious Sansara we have accumulated merits and demerits which are the Nama-Rupa illustrations in consciousness. Tactile sensations would be these illustrations leading to formation of tiny electrical pulses and depending on how bad or good they are we have happy, unhappy or equanimous feelings. Consistently and zealously striving and walking on the path to purification the yogi will gradually eliminate these leading to ascending on the path to ultimate of Nirvana.
Kin Mulaka Sutta
Vedana Samosarana Sabbe Dhamma. All things gather/congregate to feelings, is stated in the Kin Mulaka Sutta. Further, it is the consciousness that enable knowing separately the happy feelings. Unhappy feelings and neutral feelings. Buddha giving a simile on feelings stated that it is like the bubbles that form on water when it rains on a pool of water, arising and ceasing with great rapidity. Anupubbena medhavi, thokathokam khane khane. Kammarorajatass eva, niddhame malam attano. Regularly, little by little, from time to time, a wise person removes impurities just as a silversmith removes the dross from silver.
Buddha the Enlightened One said, “Janatho ahan Bhikkave passatho asavanan khayan vadami, no ajanatho apassatho” Bhikkhus, I say that by knowing and seeing only one can rid of influxes and not by not knowing and not seeing.
During the time when Buddha was living at Jeta Vihar in Sravasthi, Kisagothami a young lady got married at an early age. She after sometime gave birth to a boy. Then after sometime the child got sick and even though he was treated, died. The Lady had not known about death and thought he is only sick, and carrying the body went to places seeking help to cure her child. But the people realizing the child was dead turned her away. Then a wise person realizing her plight told her to go to Jethavana Vihar to get treatment. She went to the Jethavana Vihar and at that moment, Buddha was giving a Dhamma discourse to those who were there. Going up to Buddha, she asked Buddha to cure her child. Buddha looked at the child and knowing the kid was dead, yet told her to bring some gingelly seeds. She started to go out of the Vihar but as she reached the gate, Buddha told her to bring gingelly from a house where no one has died. Buddha told her so in order to open up her mind clouded with delusion to wisdom.
She went to many houses and asked for gingelly seeds and when it was given asked them whether anyone had died in that home. Residents told her that many has died. She kept going from place to place and at each place hearing that someone had died, her wisdom began to grow. Realizing her folly, she threw the body to a cemetery and went back to Jethavana Vihar and listened to the Dhamma being taught by Buddha and became Stream-Winner. Later ardently and zealously meditating she became and Arahath Bhikkuni.
The above is what we hear in Dhamma discourses today. But in venerating Dhamma the stanza has word Sandhittiko and it means visible, belong to this life, Akaliko meaning not only for onetime frame but at all times, Ehipassiko meaning one can come and see. Dhamma is applicable to all times. Supposing this happens today, Kisagothami can go to many houses which are newly built where no one has died and get some Gingelly seeds. After Enlightenment in the peon of joy Buddha said, Buddha says that he had travelled in unlimited cycles of lives looking for the one who build the abode (Gahakaraka). I have seen you and you will not make the abode again. That abode maker is this illustrated consciousness the seed supported by the moisture of craving. Buddha by saying, gingelly seeds from a house where no one has died enabled Kisagothami to open her mind to wisdom by contemplating at the origin (Yoniso manasikara) and realized that the House Buddha said is not those built with brick and mortar but this very body of the 6 touch-agencies. Then she threw the child’s body to a cemetery and went back to Jethavanaramaya and listening to Dhamma became Stream-Winner. Later meditating zealously, she realized the truth of Nibbana.
Kala the son of count Anathapindika
Of all the children of count Anathapindika, Kala his son never went to Jethavana Vihar. He was reluctant despite the appeals of his father. Then the count thought of a ploy and told his son “if you go to the Vihar and stay there listening to Dhamma I will give you 100 gold coins. So the very next evening Kala went to Jethavana Vihar and slept there, and came home in the morning. When told to take his breakfast, the youth said “give me the 100 gold coins” and it is only after that he sat for his breakfast. From then on, Kala went each day to the Vihar, slept in a corner and came back next morning to take his 100 gold coins. Then count Anathapindika asked his son to remember one word from the Dhamma that Buddha would preach to the Bhikkus and lay people and come and he would get 1000 gold coins. Kala went to Jethavana Vihar that evening eager to remember one word from the Dhamma preached by Buddha. To Kala each word is worth 1000 gold coins. It is known that Buddha preach Dhamma many times faster than Ven. Ananda, and further Ven. Ananda preach Dhamma many times faster than others. The Buddha teaches Dhamma with his supreme knowledge, Ven. Ananda was the person who had memorized all the Dhamma that Buddha had preached. (This was why Ven. Ananda was included in the 500 Bhikkus who were selected for the first Dhamma conference after the Parinirvana of Buddha even though he was only a Stream-Winner person but was told to strive and realize Nirvana which he did in the early hours of morning the following day, the day of the Dhamma conference).
Kala thus kept trying to grab word after word as he saw the words as 1000 gold coin pouches but each word disappeared so fast the he ultimately realized the true nature of all things, “yan kimchi samudaya dhamman sabbanthan nirodha dhamman”, all that has the samudaya has the nature of nirodha and Kala became a Stream-Winner (Sothapanna). Following morning he went home and when offered the 1000 gold coins by his father, refused to take it. The same day Buddha and many Bhikkus were coming to the home of count Anathapindika for alms. Once Buddha came, count related all of it to Buddha upon which Buddha said this stanza, “Pathavya ekarajjena saggassa gamanenava, Sabbalokadhipachchena Sothapaththi phalam varam” Better than absolute sovereignty over the earth, better than going to heaven, better than being ruler over all the worlds is the Fruit of Stream-Winner.
However though, now we often hear a different interpretation as regards Kala the son of count Anathapindika attaining Stream-Winner stage the first of the four stages to ultimate Nirvana. In explaining as to how Kala became Stream-Winner, it is stated that Buddha made a determination that Kala will not remember any of the words of Dhamma that Buddha was preaching. Indeed, this is quite contrary to the truth. Even when at the end of first Dhamma sermon at Saranath, the Dhamma Chakka Sutta ascetic Kondanga realized this same and in fact Buddha exclaimed, Kondanga has realized “yan kinchchi samudaya dhamman sabbanthan nirodha dhamman”, all that has the nature of Samudaya has the nature of Nirodha.
Mangala Sutta is recited by Bhikkus in temples as well as in Pirith Ceremonies and also by lay people at marriage ceremonies, laying foundation stones, taking office by political personage etc. Often it is recited to bestow happiness and contentment to all people and even the deities. But was this discourse expounded by the Enlightened One purely for such purposes or for greater sublime super mundane objectives? To understand the sublime super mundane aspects, it is necessary for one to delve into the sutta and try to see the inner content and not merely from an optical perspective. In venerating the Dhamma preached by the Enlightened One, we use the words, “opaniko pachchaththan vedithabbo vinnuhiti”. It means getting ever closer to the truth the wise will comprehend through self. To briefly touch upon the reason for Enlightened One to deliver this discourse, it was due to great debate that went on in this realm and indeed in godly realms as well regarding what the Mangala reasons are. In those days there were three schools of views namely, Seeing the good is a blessing / Hearing the good is a blessing / Touching the good is a blessing
Blessings (MANGLA) could be of two types, Worldly or mundane blessings / Super mundane blessing. The worldly are things such as marriage, the first feeding of a child with solid food, cutting hair of a child for first time, the first reading of words and writing by a child etc. The sound of a Rooster crowing is considered good while the chirp of a Gecko is considered a bad omen. In the super mundane aspect, Mangala means attainment of Nirvana. But the worldly or mundane blessings may go wrong, such as a marriage suddenly ending in divorce, a child who had first reading and writing later becoming dumb, after ceremonial cutting of hair child getting bald etc. Yet the worldly people still believe in the seeing, hearing and touching to a greater degree than before and has relegated the comprehension of this Sutta from the perspective of ultimate freedom and giving preference to mundane benefits.
Many thousand years ago in a country, a young man who lived was considered a bad omen by the citizens of that nation and no one ventured out when he was seen around. One day the king of the nation was going on a foot path with his entourage and happened to see this man. The very next moment his head struck the branch of a tree. Enraged and being told that seeing the young man was the reason, he told his guards to behead the man. While being taken away for beheading, the man requested to speak with the king and was granted permission. Then he told the king, “your highness on seeing me this morning your head struck a tree branch causing pain, but after seeing you this morning I am going to be beheaded.” Who was the bad omen?
The first stanza says not to associate the lowly but only associate wise. Most are of the view that this relates to not associating people seen as unsuitable. That is the wrong understanding. The wrong understanding can only lead to establishing ill will in the person concerned and is a demerit. The lowly means those who are not in the path to purification. Despite killing over 1,000 people, yet in the end Angulimala attained nibbana by taking the right path. Even if one was on the wrong path, with understanding can change course and is akin to the full moon coming out of a dark cloud lighting the dark night. Thus those who are the right friends (Kalyana Mitta) should be associated. Indeed this is the first step in the eightfold noble path, Right View.
The second is about suitable locality, to be of merits done in past and set oneself in right course. The suitable locality cannot be found in a place but only about and around self only. One can be in an abode in the most sullied area yet is tranquil and be of inner peace. On the contrary one might live in a luxury apartment and yet may not be of compassion, kindness, equanimity etc. The suitable locality is where the second person greed is not evident. Greed the second person has travelled with you all this long period, being as this and being as that, and thus will never overcome this sansara. Merits in the past are those done in the immediate past as well and not only in previous existences and such a person will set him/her on right course of right thought & attitude for emancipation. This is the second step in the eightfold noble path of Right Resolve.
To have much learning, skillful, well trained and disciplined and of good speech is the third stanza. This is the third step in the eightfold noble path. Trained and disciplined will be those who would not utter any lies, not use divisive speech, not indulge in abusive rude talk and also abstain from frivolous talk. Also by training (sikka) only one achieves the attainment of the Jhanas. The Enlightened One uttered, “sikka eka sanna uppajjanthi, sikka eka sanna nirujjanthi” by training itself is one perception arisen and by training itself is one perception eliminated. Even in the Sathipattana Sutta it is stated about training with the whole body experiencing tactile sensations while breathing in and out. This the third step, Right Speech
The fourth stanza is about caring for one’s mother and father, cherish wife and children and be of right action. In other words this is the fourth step of Right Action, of ethical actions that manifest compassion. Sadly though in these days one often hear of how parents are being badly treated by children who at times are even left on the road. Such children will always come to ultimate grief for their actions. The ethical actions are a very important aspect of our lives. It is about not killing, not taking that which is not given and not indulging in any sexual misconduct. Those who resort to such actions though may find some initial satisfaction will ultimately end in great grief. Thus even if one has erred, the need is to take corrective action to be in the right path (Life of Angulimala Thero). This is the fourth step, Right Conduct.
To give generously and be of right conduct, look after ones relatives and is of blameless action is the fifth stanza. This is about making a living through ethical means and being of no harm to others. This is the fifth step of Right Livelihood. However right living is fast disappearing with many today resorting to wrong living in this world like the sale of weapons, be those WMD (weapons of mass destruction) or WSD (weapons of single destruction), intoxicants, liquor, poison etc. Also an alarming development is the use of internet technology, the worldwide web by many vendors to spread things that are of extreme negative impact to the society at large which defile the mindset and propel such people to resort to wrong actions etc.
At Sravasthi a leader of a dance troupe once asked the Buddha whether as told by his teachers that those who entertain people with music and dance will be born heaven. Buddha initially refused to answer but after being asked three times said that those who act to imperil others by stirring their sense desires would only end in lower abodes. To cease and abstain from evil, refrain from taking intoxicants and heedful of Dhamma is the sixth stanza. Right effort in eightfold noble path is about cleansing of defilements and not accruing new, cultivating the rightful actions and further develop the existing right actions. The person steeped in the practice of this stanza is on the right track. This is the sixth step, Right Effort.
The seventh stanza of great blessings says that it is about being respectful and not full of ego, contented and grateful and to listen to Dhamma at the right times. The eighth is about being patient and obedient, associating Bhikkus and to discuss Dhamma on right occasions. Such actions can never be expected from one not in possession of Right Mindfulness, the 7th step. There is also a wrong mindfulness. Imagine a cat seeing a rat on prowl and will freeze in its step even for an hour or more with intent to kill the rat, a case of wrong mindfulness. Thieves are often possessed with wrong mindfulness. The ninth expounds about eradicating the defilements by living a chaste life, comprehend the four noble truths and realization of the truth of nibbana. This is the Eighth Step of Right Concentration, of seed and the fruit leading to right knowledge and liberation of Nibbana. Such a mind is unruffled by the eight worldly phenomena of gain/loss, fame/ill fame, praise/blame and happiness/sadness. This indeed is the greatest blessing of all and the Arahaths are not affected by these worldly factors.
Yet the problem with people is that they seek only blessings just by listening to the Sutta and not apply themselves in the strategic path in the daily living. We the worldly people are often under the influence of the eight worldly phenomena. But by adhering to the guidance of these supreme blessing factors one can derive the strength to be of equanimity and not be unduly burdened by the worldly factors. Though it is an act merit to listen to the Sutta, the important factor is to realize that the Enlightened One has given us guidance to apply these blessings factors to our daily life for ultimate deliverance of Nibbana.
“Thumhe hi kichchan aathappan – Akkatharo Tathagatga – Patipanna Pamokkanthi – Jhayino marabandana” – By you must the effort be made: the Tatagathas point out the way. Those who go this way in contemplation, free themselves from the bondage of Mara. In essence the Mangala Sutta guides the lay people and well as ascetics to a noble practice while living our daily lives. It should not be seen only as a means for getting blessings or to be recited only on occasions but to be practiced daily and such a person/s would invariably be on the right path to ultimate purification, Nibbana. “Yassa purecha pachchacha – Majjecha naththi kinchanan – Akinchanan anadanan – Tamhan brumi brahmanan” – To whom there is nothing in the past or in the future or in the present, who owns nothing and who clings to nothing – him I call a Brahmana. Bhavathu Sabba Mangalam! – (This article has been based on a recent Dhamma Discourse given by Venerable Gampaha Pemasiri Thero of Sumathipala Aranya in Kanduboda)
Mangala Sutra Meditation and Ten Parami….(Part – 02)
In the first part of this article clear explanation was given on how to see the Mangala Sutra from a super-mundane perspective. The third to fifth stanzas are of virtue and the first two of wisdom. But as clearly explained in the Sonadanda Sutra if there is no virtue then no wisdom and if no wisdom then no virtue. The wisdom and virtue are interdependent. One devoid of wisdom will not be of virtue and one devoid of virtue lacks wisdom. The meditative yogi knowing this very well, and will establish self in virtue. Virtue enables one to restrain the five faculties. Restraint of the five faculties is the power needed to establish mindfulness. By initially establishing in virtue the yogi will relinquish the defiling that would surface with restraint. The meditative yogi now will progress to the next stage, that of concentration with mindfulness meditation and thereby will restrain the defiling that would have been churning inside, but have not surfaced. Powered by the virtue and concentration the yogi will proceed to developing insight and where the yogi will see the surfacing of the defiling that have remained dormant inside. The tactile-sensations that develop at this stage is clear manifestation of this aspect. One may get pleasing tactile-sensations or unbearable tactile-sensations. But the wise yogi will not react to any of those but only observe it all with equanimity.
In the anapana sathi meditation having settled down in a comfortable position, ideally in a quiet and peaceful location (even at home) one begins with an element of mindfulness to observe the in and out breath. After a while the yogi will observe breath often initially long and later short. But this does not always happen in sequence as at times one after observing short breath may suddenly find breathing in long in and out breath. Often the yogi will note thoughts popping out, and the trick here is not to give any value to those thoughts. Then the arisen thoughts will cease soon. As one proceeds watching the breath one begins to feel the sensations often in the area above the upper lip and below the nostril apertures, or at time the nostril apertures and just inside. The advantage of the area above the upper lip as opposed to focus on the belly movement is that the nostril area sensations are more acute allowing the yogi to build more and more concentration.
As the yogi keeps progressing in this path, begins to feel tactile sensations arising in the body. These sensations may often arise at the top of the head for those yogis who have been in regular meditation, at least two to three hours each day. Gradually the tactile sensations will increase in intensity and the sensations could be pleasant and nice or hard and unpleasant. Here the yogi will not give any value to these tactile-sensations but observe them from top to bottom and bottom to top or area to area with equanimity. The value of the tactile-sensations whether they are gross and hard or fine and pleasant is an indication of the defilements that have illustrated the consciousness. The cleansing for great majority of yogis is gradual. This is clearly explained in Dhammapada (Malavagga 18.239). “One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise person should remove his/her impurities, just as a silversmith removes dross of silver.”
In this aspect of the Dhamma four different persons are shown, Ugghatithannu – Is open and will comprehend fully the Dhamma in a trice. Arahaths such as Bahiya Daruchiriya and Santhathi belongs to this group. Vipatithannu – Is open but not fully and needs to strive little harder than the first group. Arahath Chulapanthaka would belong to this group. Neiya – Have to strive very hard in order to reach the ultimate goal. Majority of people who have chosen the path today would come under this category. Padaparama – Hardly a chance of them achieving the ultimate goal because these people are totally averse to striving for ultimate liberation. Great majority of humans today would fall into this category.
The observation of tactile-sensations in the present itself has the value of Insight. One gets insight into the gross or fine sensations and the happy or unhappy feelings but yet have equanimity to not react to these. This is not easy as all our lives we have learnt to react positively or negatively from a mundane perspective. Therefore, building equanimity itself is sure footed path. Progressing on with the observation of the tactile-sensations, the yogi will discern that they are now decreasing in frequency and intensity as well as the bodily-formations of in and out breath too is getting finer and some may not even discern the breath at all. Yet the yogi is breathing but the feeling on the in and out breath is not obvious. At this juncture the yogi will begin to delve in to the true insight where he/she will observe with wisdom the self-body and then also with wisdom the other-bodies and self & other bodies, then begins to realize that after all there is no discernable self as such in this somatic body but assimilations of the four maha bhuthas and the space and consciousness (Cha Dhathu). The yogi will now realize the arising of things and the cessation and the arising and cessation of the things (Dhamma) in the mind.
Of these six, five of them the maha bhuthas and space is never the same. Imagine your space within the mouth cavity. Every time you change position there is change in the space. So do the maha bhuthas which too change all the time. The Sakkaya Ditti or the self-ego that we have built up is where we think this somatic thing is I and mine. By getting rid of this self-ego you reach the first stage of stream-enterer. Devoid of self-ego the yogi will also jettison doubt (vichikichcha) and wrong practices and rituals silabbatha paramasa). Often some claim the five grasping-aggregates as the self-ego or sakkaya ditti. It would be quite difficult to accept this as the Enlightened One in the very first discourse, the Wheel of Dhamma Discourse said that in essence the grasping-aggregates is itself this suffering. Nirvana is the ultimate liberation from this as Enlightened One said it is the suffering or dhukka that arises and the dhukka that ceases. Freedom from all the ten fetters and not just the first three fetters is nirvana. Freedom from first three fetters is stream-entry or Sothapaththi.
Though today we talk more about meditation, it is not as easy as one thinks. There is need for commitment and much striving to walk the path. Enlightened One said, “You yourself must strive; the Tathagathas only point out the way. Those who tread that very path are released from the bondage of Mara” (Dhammapada 20.276). Though many may begin meditation, most would drop off after finding that it is not as easy as one may think. As in any venture the first part is the most difficult and if one has the mind and the will to keep at it will find the beauty and the great happiness that come with meditation. Meditation is not only the path to ultimate super-mundane happiness of Nirvana but is also a proven remedy to many of our somatic illnesses. Indeed, many have found peace and tranquility of a somatic perspective from illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mental Aberration and even Heart Ailments. I myself had a heart attack in 2004 and while at the ICU, the heart stopped. It was restarted only with electric shocks, eight in all. But meditation has given me the inner strength to jettison all thoughts about my heart attack and lead a happy life. But I know that many heart patients often trouble themselves with the mind-moments about the illness causing them further grief.
Those walking the path of meditation invariably begin fulfilling the Ten Parami. To go to a retreat for a week or two for meditation one has to practice renunciation. The yogi is giving up many things and also staying away from loved ones and loved things (Nekkamma). Also one begins by observing the precepts, be it five, the eight observed on poya days or of livelihood, the ten precepts etc. That itself is virtue (Sila). During the meditation the yogi develops meditative-wisdom (Panna). There is need for much striving during the period one is in meditation. Absence of striving often makes people leave retreats earlier (Viriya). While in meditation, often in a retreat or where there are many others also meditating things can happen to disturb the mind. The wise will not allow such things to disturb self and will act with patience. That is why at the beginning the teachers would say to follow the guideline as specified and be patient. (Kanthi)
With patience developed one becomes truthful to self and to others. If one digresses from the path at any time, then the yogi will realize and will speak the truth with teachers at the retreat and try to resolve it. You will build truthfulness into your life as well (Saccha). Determination enables one to walk the path resolutely despite whatever obstacles that may come up. Determination enables yogi to see clearly what is required to walk the path to ultimate enlightenment (Adhitthana). With determination one develops loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is about other wellbeing and there is no ego-centric aspect of yearning for anything in return. (Metta) The meditative yogi has now developed equanimity and will not go to either of the two ends and also will not try to attach to the middle with wisdom (Upekka). Such a yogi with full understanding will practice giving (Dana) and will not use it to ego building.
In the four foundations of Mindfulness, the first stage is remaining focused on the body, in & of itself. Each stage in this mindfulness meditation is explained in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta, which one can find in the printed form as well as in the internet in Pali Text, in Sinhala language as well as in English and many other Languages. Thus, it is not my endeavor here to go into the details of the Sutta. As explained by the venerable Katukurunde Gnanannanda thero in many discourses and my own understanding, it is of great importance to see the segregation of the two key aspects, Establishing mindfulness / Building Insight or Vipassana.
The initial stages of the observation of differing levels of breath the long and the short, observing the tactile sensations of the whole body and seeing the stilling of the bodily formations (kaya sankharo) of breath (even though one is still breathing) are all steps in establishing the mindfulness. ”. This is akin to building the scaffolding where one will sit and use that to build the real structure and in this case insight and wisdom. (Sabba Kaya Patisanvedi is often referred in practice and in many texts as aware of the whole breath body. In the Sabba Sutta (The All) Enlightened One says, “Bhikkhus I will preach you all (sabba) and please listen and pay attention well. I will speak”. “What is all? It is Eye and form, ear and sound, nose and smell, tongue and taste, body and tactile sensations and mind and things. If anyone repudiating this says I will tell another all, will come to great difficulty, would be unable to explain and put to great difficulty.)
The second part is where the yogi focuses on the body of self, in & of it. Then the yogi moves the focus on the body of others, in & of it. Then the yogi will focus on both self body and the other body, in & of it. With continued contemplation the yogi then focus on & of this body of the arising and then the ceasing and the arising and ceasing together. In this part, where is the insight and development of wisdom? The Pali language text say, “ajjaththanva kaye kayanupassi viharathi, bahiddava kaye kayanupassi viharathi, ajjaththa bahiddava kaye kayanupassi viharathi”.
The somatic body of self is seen in & of it with total mindfulness, then the other and then the self and the other together. As one continues to observe with insight, one begins to understand that the farther limit of the self (ajjaththa) is the proximate limit of the other (bahidda) and the farther limit of the other is the proximate limit of self. In the process one begin to comprehend that in the self and the other it is these four elements, the earth element, the water element, the fire element and the air element. The noble disciple also realizes it is these same four elements that are there in the surrounding. Our bodies are in a state of flux and no one can claim that those four elements in the self are theirs all the time because the change is the reality. In this way the Yogi understands that the delimitation we have placed to say this is my body is a myth and that itself is the path to insight. The same is true in other three, feeling, mind and things and begins to realize with insight those are not unique to self only but of other as well.
The same principle is evident in the knowledge udayaththagamini panna or the knowing of arising and ceasing. Udaya is the arising or morning and Aththagama is evening or ceasing. The morning and evening are inter connected, the farther limit of morning the proximate limit of evening and farther limit of evening the proximate limit of morning. With this realization the Yogi will no longer dwell into the sixteen ways of contemplating of self. The sixteen ways are, The past – Was I there or not there, who was I, how did I live, this being who was and who did it become? The future – Will I be there or not, who will I be and how will I live, who will I become from whom? The present – Am I there or not there, who am I? How am I living now and who am I now and who I will become thereafter?
To understand this, let us use a simple simile. A person, say a lady is getting ready to go to a wedding and as is today will ensure that the best of clothing is worn, adorned with jewelry and facial make up which is at its best. The person while looking at self in the mirror may think I am looking good, better than the last time, and how will I look when I go to the wedding party, many an eye will be turned towards me and so on. All the time the focus was on this somatic body and this will result in the buildup of Sakkaya Ditti or Personality View, the first fetter of the ten fetters.
The Sutta under section Kayanupassana further state that the yogi is mindful that this body is there for ultimate realization (insight) and mindfulness and will not lean on anything (with mind) or grasp anything. Unfortunately today, despite the presence of many Buddhist TV channels, many Radio channels and so many Buddhist Temples and all the Pooja that are taking place almost daily the people at large are mostly unaware and oblivious of the ultimate bliss that one can achieve with right contemplation of the body. Instead of using this body and the bodily formations of breath to find an end to the suffering, they are mostly trying to glorify it. A recent Sunday Newspaper Magazine had seven full pages of advertisements on beauty culture and Spas for ladies but not a single page on meditation. Yet in public transport buses, many passenger and goods vehicles there are slogans saying “This is the land of Buddha”. The simple truth is that great majority of our people have no idea as to who the Enlightened One is.
One who is either on the path or has attained the fruit of Stream-Enterer has realized these seven factors of Stream-Entry (Sothapaththi). (As expounded by the Enlightened One in Kosambi Sutta). The noble disciple ponders that he/she is no longer obsessed with Sensual Desires, Aversion, Sloth & Torpor, Restlessness & Remorse and Doubt. When the disciple realizes these five things are no longer burdening, then the disciple realizes, “Yes I am no longer obsessed with these five”. The disciple understands that he/she is not engaged in disputes, arguments, contention and mutual verbal assault. This is the first knowledge. The noble disciple ponders this way: “When I Pursue, develop and commit to this perspective, do I personally acquire tranquility and peacefulness? The disciple realizes, yes I personally acquire tranquility and peacefulness”. This is the second knowledge.
The noble disciple ponders, “Are there any priests and contemplatives outside this (the teachings of Enlightened One) who have the same kind of perspective as I do? The disciple understands there are no other priests and contemplatives outside this teaching who have the same kind of perspective as I do. This is the third noble knowledge the disciple has attained. If the disciple has committed an offense for which rehabilitation is possible, then the disciple will quickly tells, discloses and clarifies with the wise co-associates and teacher so that after telling, disclosing and clarifying the disciple is restrained. This is the fourth knowledge the disciple has attained. The noble disciple strives to do whatever that needs to be done for the co-practitioners, while being totally committed to training self in virtue, mindfulness and wisdom. Just as a Cow while grazing watches over the calf, so does the noble disciple while seeing to the needs to be done for co-practitioners will have strong commitment to training self in virtue, mindfulness and wisdom. The noble disciple understands, “I have the disposition of a person who has attained right view”. This is the fifth knowledge the disciple has attained.
The noble disciple understands that when Dhamma-Vinaya as expounded by the Enlightened One is taught, the disciple listens to the Dhamma carefully, attentively and wholeheartedly. The disciple will then understands, “I have the disposition of a person who has attained the right view”. This is the sixth knowledge the disciple has gained. The noble disciple when listening to the Dhamma-VInaya as expounded by the Enlightened One is being taught, the disciple acquires an understanding of the meaning, acquires an understanding of the Dhamma and the disciple acquires joy connected with the understanding of Dhamma. This is the seventh knowledge the disciple has gained.
Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple has these seven characteristics, the noble disciple has sought out well the disposition that leads to realization of stream-entry. Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple has these seven characteristics the noble disciple has attained stream-entry. But unfortunately though, today the great majority of people in this whole world does not understand the great value of meditation leading to stream-entry and instead dwell in the territory of Mara or death. Those who lead lives of mindfulness on the other hand are in the paternal territory or the territory of Buddha. This is well explained in the Sakunagghi Sutta: The Hawk. A young Quail once ventured out into the sky away from its normal terrain of newly ploughed field with clumps of earth. There a Hawk caught the bird and soon the Quail started wailing, “I would not have got caught had I remained in my paternal terrain”. Then the hawk queried as to where its paternal terrain is and the Quail mentioned the ploughed field. Then the Hawk let go of the Quail saying you can be anywhere but I will catch you. Quickly the Quail came down to earth and sitting atop a clump of earth that is turned up challenged the Hawk to catch it. The Hawk began its swoop down to capture the Quail, and when it was nearer, the Quail got under the clump of earth. Hawk unable to control its speed collided with the earth and died.
In the same way we the worldly humans not being aware of the paternal heritage, of the terrain of Sathi all the time transgress into the territory of Mara, of form, sound, aroma, taste and tactile-sensations. Engrossed in these five one can never find the escape from Mara, that of Nibbana. Sathi can be developed by anyone provided he or she walks the path of Kayanupassana. The greater Goal of Mindfulness Meditation is not only relief from mental stress, getting better sleep or somatic relief as those are peripheral benefits. The primary super-mundane goal is to make the path to ultimate realization of Nibbana. In the Ajitha Sutta in Parayana Vagga, ascetic Ajitha asked the question, Savanthi sabbadi sothan, Sothyanan kin nivaranan, Sothanan sanvaran bhrusi, Kena sotha pithiyare? The Enlightened one replied, Yani sothani lokasmin, sathi thesan nivaranan, Sothanan sanvaran bhrumi, Pannayathe pithiyare.
Everywhere the streams (the defiling or KIlesas) are flowing. How can they be blocked? Say how the streams can be restrained. By what are these defiling streams dammed? Enlightened One replied, whatever the defiling/Kilesa streams are flowing in the six touch-agencies (the world as stated by Enlightened One is this six touch-agencies, Chasu Loko Samuppanno…), by mindfulness they are blocked, that I say is streams’ restraint and by wisdom they are dammed. What is this flow? It is the four asawas, Kama or desire, Bhava or existence, Ditti or view and Avijja or ignorance.
So the mindfulness as taught by Enlightened One is that which enables humans to block the inflow of defiling and also unravel those seated inside. Thus with mindfulness one gains the ability to overcome the ten armies of Mara. The ten armies are,Sensual pleasures is your first / Discontent your second is called / Third is hunger and thirst / Fourth is craving / Sloth and torpor is your fifth / The sixth is called fear / Your seventh is doubt / Conceit and ingratitude are your eighth / Gain, renown, honor and whatever fame is falsely gained (is your ninth) / And whoever both extols himself and disparages others (has fallen victim to the tenth)
“Moha sambandhino loko, bhabba rupova dissathi. Upadisambandino balo, thamsa parivaricha. Sassathoviya chayathi, passatho naththi kinchanam” – Associated with delusion, and enveloped by the darkness of ignorance the unwise sees this form as good and is permanent. But the wise seeing it as it is with wisdom see that there is nothing.Easy to do are things that are bad and harmful to oneself. But exceedingly difficult to do are things that are good and beneficial. (Dhammapada. 12, 163) “Nivuthanan thamo hothi, andhakaro apassatha. Sathancha vivato hothi aaloko passathamiva. Santhike na vijanaththi maga dhammassa akovida.” (Dwayathanupassana Sutta)
Unwise humans covered by the darkness (ignorance) are unable to see it just as a blind person cannot see darkness. The wise, the Enlightened One and the Arahath Bhikkhus can see just as a person with good sight can see the light of the day. But those who are unskilled in this noble path of Dhamma cannot see the liberation of Nibbana even though it is so near. All those who follow the path as shown by the Enlightened One know well how he jettisoned the opportunity to become an Arahath in the time of Enlightened One Deepankara. Instead he decided to dive back into this dangerous flow of desire, existence, view and ignorance for our sake only. But if the people today are not taking this beautiful path clearly shown by the Enlightened One then they are the most ungrateful of all.
The Enlightened One said “kathannu kruthavedi puggalo dullabo lokasmin”; very rare are people who are grateful. So my dear fellow Human Beings, do not procrastinate anymore, but strive hard to achieve the ultimate liberation in this life. References; Dhamma Discourses of Venerable Katukurunde Ganananda Thero (Nivane Niveema) / Kosambi Sutta (translated by Suddhaso Bhikkhu)
Mindfulness and Insight Meditation….
Mindfulness and Insight Meditation is ever so gaining the attention of people mainly as a means to escape from mental stress. Globally speaking there is a vast population especially in the western world who are being impacted by mental stress in their daily lives. According to the Mental Health Foundation UK 2016 report on facts pertaining to 2014 the situation is of much concern. Quote” This year’s Fundamental Facts follows the recent publication of the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS). This highlights that, every week, one in six adults experiences symptoms of a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, and one in five adults has considered taking their own life at some point. Nearly half of adults believe that, in their lifetime, they have had a diagnosable mental health problem, yet only a third have received a diagnosis. The APMS brings to the fore the widening gap between the mental health of young women and young men. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are almost three times as likely (at 26%) to experience a common mental health problem as their male contemporaries (9%) and have higher rates of self-harm, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. This is clearly an issue that needs a deeper look and a strategy for addressing the factors that are causing it.
Another group at particular risk includes people in mid-life, with a noticeable increase in the prevalence of common mental health problems for both men and women between the ages of 55 and 64. There are some very worrying levels of poor mental health among people receiving Employment and Support Allowance. Two thirds report common mental health problems and the same percentage report suicidal thoughts, with 43.2% having made a suicide attempt and one third (33.5%) self-harming, indicating that this is a population in great need of targeted support. Despite an increase in people accessing treatment, around a third of all people with a mental health problem have sought no professional help at all. At the center of the Mental Health Foundation’s research and program work is the belief that many mental health problems are preventable. There is far more scope for interventions that reduce the incidence of people developing mental health problems and also support recovery” Unquote
Indeed, the mental health problems are preventable and there is a clear and well defined path that can help all the people. That path is the understanding of the Eightfold Noble Path as shown in Mangala Sutra, Mindfulness and Insight Meditation and development of Ten Parami. So how can one find the Eightfold Noble Path in the Mangala Sutra? Let us examine the first stanza of the sutra. “Do not associate the lowly, associate with wise, honor those worthy of honor and this is the greatest blessing”. Unfortunately, most people see this from the external perspective and try to find others who are not foolish but only those seen as wise and scout for the worthy to be honored. But if one with insight look deeper, will realize that the Enlightened One did not mean this. Here the super-mundane truth is for one not to do things that defile one’s mind but do only those that cleanse it.
Then such a person becomes worthy of honor. Things such as killing, stealing, misconduct in desires, of lies, divisive talk, hate talk, frivolous talk, consumption of intoxicants are all lowly and one should refrain from such things. Such a person will be endowed with loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, equanimity etc. Such people are surely worthy of honor. Also this itself is Right View or Samma Ditti. This is the cleansing with insight and the person will know his/her status as shown in the Kosambi Sutra. Such persons are either on the path to stream-entry or are stream-enterers. One who sees the inner truth in Mangala Sutra will clearly see the eightfold noble path so well defined in the most practical manner. One may also look into Dhammapada, Loka Vagga (The World 13.167) stanza. “Do not follow the lowly ways, do not live heedless; do not associate into false view, do not linger into worldliness”. Here the worldly means self of the six touch -agencies The next stanza says, “To reside in a suitable locality, to have done merits in the past and setting self in the right course and this is the greatest blessing”. From a mundane perspective one may think of living in a good area, of merits done in previous lives, and now to do more merits as the greatest blessing.
In actual fact, the suitable locality is around oneself and not a territory and a person with restraint can even live in a crowded area and yet be of inner peace. On the contrary one may live in the most luxurious places yet might have a churning mind. He or she does not attach to self or to others or things, has no hatred towards others and will not harm anyone and thereby has set self in the right course. This is Right Contemplation or Samma Sankappa. “To have much learning and skills, restrained and disciplined, be of right speech and this is the greatest blessing” To have much learning is not what is assimilated with our senses but knowledge of Dhamma and thereby is skilled in the path. Such person/s are restrained and disciplined and will only have right speech Samma Vaacha. “Caring for one’s mother and father, looking after the spouse and children, and engaged in right actions for living, and this is the greatest blessing”. With righteous living one also looks after parents and the family and is thus of virtue. In a world today where parents are banished away or left in home for aged or even left on the road, there still are those who live in the right path and take care of parents. This is Right Action or Samma Kammantha. Such a person’s actions are ethical and reflect compassion.
“To give generously and be of right conduct, look after one’s relatives and be of blameless action, this is the greatest blessing”. This is about making a living through ethical means and being of no harm to others. This is the fifth step of right livelihood. However right living is fast disappearing with many today resorting to wrong living in this world like sale of weapons, be those WMD (weapons of mass destruction) or WSD (weapons of single destruction), intoxicants, technology that enable people to resort to wrong actions etc. This is Samma Aajiwa or Right Livelihood. “To loathe and abstain from evil, refrain from taking intoxicants and heedful of Dhamma, this is the greatest blessing.” This is the Right effort in eightfold noble path and is about cleansing of defilements and not accruing new, cultivating the rightful actions and further develop the existing right actions. The person steeped in the practice of this stanza is on the right track of Right Effort.
The seventh and eighth stanzas are, “To be respectful and humble and not be of bloated ego, contented and grateful, listen to Dhamma at right times is the greatest blessing” and “Being patient and obedient, associate Bhikkus and discuss Dhamma at right times, this is the greatest blessing”. None of these can be expected from people with wrong mindfulness and it is such people who are ungrateful. Indeed, the Enlightened One once said, “those with gratitude are rare in this world”. This is Right Mindfulness. “Fully restrained in the six touch-agencies, living a chaste and righteous life, and realization of the four noble truths, this is the greatest blessing”. Such a person has fully attained the four paths and the four fruits and is now fully liberated. “Unruffled by the eight worldly conditions that confront self, and of a mind that does not get ruffled and free of sorrow, free of defilements, and from fear liberated, this is the greatest blessing” This itself is Right Concentration.
Therefore, the Mangala Sutra gives one the plan of action that should be undertaken for ultimate liberation of Nirvana and not just to recite at occasions that are of worldly benefits. In short this sutra shows us the path to the super-mundane condition, Nirvana. The one who meditates must first be of virtue, and with Anapana Sathi will build concentration and then move on to developing wisdom. The first two stanzas of this sutra is Wisdom. The next three stanzas form Virtue. The next five stanzas are about Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. This is concentration. A person who walk the path of meditation will steadfastly observe virtue. The level may be the five precepts, eight livelihood precepts, the eight precepts observed on Poya days, the ten precepts or the precepts as observed by Bhikkus. He or she will knowingly never deviate from the level of virtue once taken. Thus it is important to at least observe the five precepts.
Yet of course there are occasions where people have attained nirvana despite having taken liquor, the case of Minister Santhathi in the cabinet of King Kosala, or Sumana who became a stream-enterer, though initially in life was a lady who practiced wrong sexual conduct for pecuniary benefits. But a person steeped in virtue will find it much easier to progress further. With virtue instilled, and resolutely protecting the status one will begin Mindfulness Meditation of observing the breath. One may retire to a place of solitude particularly for beginners as it would be quite difficult to build concentration in a disturbing surrounding.